Srinivasan explains that the chip is sending electric pulses through the needle into the brain slice, which is passing them on to the screen we're watching. "The difference in the waves' modulation reflects the signals sent out by the brain slice," he says. "And they're almost identical in frequency and pattern to the pulses sent by the chip." Put more simply, this iron-gray wafer about a millimeter square is talking to living brain cells as though it were an actual body part.
Remedying Alzheimer's disease would, if Berger's grand vision plays out, be as simple as upgrading a bit of hardware. No more complicated drug regimens with their frustrating side effects. A surgeon simply implants a few computerized brain cells, and the problem is solved.
Can a chunk of silicon really stand in for brain cells? I ask. "I don't need a grand theory of the mind to fix what is essentially a signal-processing problem," he says. "A repairman doesn't need to understand music to fix your broken CD player."
What the chip is saying is anyone's guess -- the content of the conversation is beside the point, Berger continues. It's straight mechanic-talk from the man who has created a prototype of the world's first memory implant, basically a hardware version of the brain cells in your hippocampus that are crucial to the formation of memory.
"Replicating memory is going to happen in our lifetimes, and that puts us on the edge of being able to understand how thought arises from tissue -- in other words, to understand what consciousness really means."
The Memory Hacker
Current Music: Not Breathing -- Mindsweeper ♬